BRICS gathered in Geneva to discuss a new digital order

The UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Webinar on Competition law and policy approaches towards digital platforms and ecosystems in cooperation with the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre ( and the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) was held on June 3, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The digitalization of the economy – legislature, trade, customs, logistics, etc. – is just entering its most active stage of development, itself a preparatory stage for the automation of the economy. One of the most pressing issues now, at the initial stage of digitalization, is still the streamlining and creation of a regulatory framework for future global processes. This includes the issue of antitrust regulation, both within individual countries and various interstate associations, such as the EU or BRICS.

“Today, the actions of antitrust agencies in different countries remain disparate and fragmented. Lack of consensus leads to weakened enforcement, and ecosystems increase anti-competitive pressure on the market. Antitrust law is on the verge of losing its relevance and strength in the digital economy. We need some form of international agreement on the regulation of digital ecosystems, especially given the development of AI technologies,” emphasized Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center.

As the expert explained, each BRICS jurisdiction has its own objectives with regard to competition law. There is a common core, which has been defined as consumer welfare, efficient allocation of resources and economic freedom. But so far, one of the bottlenecks in dealing with digital markets is market definition – the application of traditional market definition tools is challenged by the tendency of digital markets to be highly innovative and dynamic.

The development of new definitions and indicators is one of the most important tasks of the meeting. As part of the presentation, Victor Oliveira Fernandes, Commissioner of CADE, stated that within their organization a number of new indicators have already been developed to define the platform market: for example, the ability to unilaterally impose conditions, including as a show of bargaining power, ownership of key datasets, ability to influence choice through online platform architecture, lack of transparency.

Since this year, the number of BRICS member countries has grown, and further expansion is being discussed. Moreover, the association, which remained formal for a long time, is beginning to work more actively. The more active the more real contradictions and problems. Nevertheless, experts noted that there is a significant convergence among BRICS jurisdictions in recognizing the importance of certain essential standards, such as consumer welfare standards, but there are also some differences that are worth highlighting. Authorities in different countries, especially Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, recognize other objectives, such as ensuring economic freedom or a level playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises. And these goals can somehow be translated into more elaborate legal standards for assessing abuse of dominance.

Alexey Ivanov also focused the participants’ attention on the fact that cooperation exactly within the framework of supranational associations can give real results in the fight against violations of fair competition rules by global monopolists in local markets. “Much more opportunities for developing countries lie in the area of cooperation. BRICS, as you know, is expanding and working in the area of developing joint enforcement actions, remedies, investigations, case reviews, because this is how you essentially balance the playing field in the fight against global companies,” Ivanov explained.

The meeting was attended by a wide pool of international experts and representatives of national and international competition authorities: Victor Oliveira Fernandes, Commissioner, CADE; Rajinder Punja, Economic Director, CCI/ Representative from SAMR (tbc); Masako Wakui, Professor of Law, Kyoto University; Maria Ioannidou, Professor, Queen Mary University of London; Deni Mantzari, Associate Professor, University College of London; Alexey Ivanov, Director, BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center. The experts agreed to continue working on the creation of a harmonized system of supranational instruments of antitrust regulation.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre.

About BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre:
The BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre was established in 2018 by the BRICS competition authorities. The Centre’s work is aimed at collecting and analyzing information from competition agencies, identifying best practices, but primarily at preparing recommendations and developing approaches to competition policy that reflect the interests of the development of the BRICS economies. The key mission of the BRICS Competition Centre is to advance the development agenda and strengthen the role of competition regulation in overcoming imbalances in the global economy. The Centre brings together leading international universities and independent researchers who are actively involved in the Centre’s main research projects: on global food chains, on sustainability policy and on new approaches to antitrust regulation of the digital economy.